Cannes-winner and long take master Miklos Jancso dies at 92

MIKLOS-JANCSO

Image Credit: Ferenc Isza/Getty Images

Hungarian filmmaker Miklós Jancsó, winner of the best director award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, died Friday. He was 92.

Jancsó’s death after a long illness was announced by the Association of Hungarian Film Artists.

Known for his long takes and for depicting the passage of time in his historical epics merely by changes of costume, Jancsó won his Cannes award for Red Psalm, about a 19th-century peasant revolt.


In the 1960s, critics ranked Jancso alongside great directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. However, it was his use of scantily clad women, symbolizing defencelessness, which drew big audiences in prudish communist Hungary.

Jancsó was born Sept. 27, 1921, in Vac, a small town north of Budapest. His parents were refugees from Transylvania, once a part of Hungary.

“My mother was Romanian. In civilian life, the family members were friends, but politically on opposite sides…For me this was a great lesson, that conflict, much less violence, will never solve the nationality problems,” Jancsó said.

Between April and November 1945, he was a Soviet prisoner of war. He joined the communist party in 1946.

“I was always concerned with the problem of the individual can navigate through history,” Jancsó said, summing up the central focus of his films.

After directing a series of short films in the 1950s, his 1963 Cantata drew the attention of the wider public to his exceptional talent and innovative style.

In the early 1970s, Jancsó lived in Italy during which he made Vices and Pleasures, about the double suicide of Rudolf, Archduke of Austria, and his mistress in 1889.

Because of scenes depicting orgies, the movie was banned in Italy and Jancsó was sentenced to four months in prison. He was later acquitted on appeal.

Among his most successful films were The Round-up (1965), The Red and the White (1967) and Silence and Cry (1968).

He also directed the French-Israeli coproduction, Dawn, made in 1986 from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel’s book about Jews seeking their identity in Israel.

“The most noble esthetic pleasure is the discovery of truth,” Jancsó told Filmvilag magazine.

Between 1999 and 2006, he made a series of six films dealing with the often absurd adventures of Kapa and Pepe, two comical anti-heroes played by actors Zoltan Mucsi and Peter Scherer. The use in the films of songs from Hungarian pop band Kispal es a Borz helped the films gain cult status.

Jancsó was a professor of the Budapest Film Academy, and between 1990 and 1992 he was a visiting professor at Harvard’s Institute of Communications.

He received lifetime achievement awards in Cannes in 1979, Venice in 1990 and Budapest in 1994.

Jancsó is survived by this third wife, Zsuzsa Csákány, and four children. His second wife was Marta Meszaros, also a film director. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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